The seven-team, 83-participant Class 2A, District 7 Tournament at Springstead concluded as a day to behold for the county’s four mat squads.
After 6 ½ hours, the well-oiled, double-elimination IBT (individually bracketed tournament) expunged 27 grapplers for next week’s grueling, 28-team Class 2A, Region II Meet at St. Cloud, aka "The Region of Doom."
Host Springstead overcame one of its own breaking the sport’s cardinal rules – sophomore Robert Holdway not making weight at 145 pounds – pushing a meet-best 12 of its 13 members to the Feb. 8-9 affair at Osceola County.
As expected, the Eagles nudged Nature Coast, 222.0-165.5, for their ninth straight district title and their North Suncoast-best 27th team crown in the sport.
Springstead featured a meet-high seven individual champions across nine finals bouts highlighted by five repeat titlists.
The day, however, belonged to many.
Nature Coast, which finished as high as second in 2010-11 in 1A-8, entered with four district champs in its first eight district tourneys. On Saturday behind a huge, vocal following, the Sharks walked away with a school-best 10 regional qualifiers highlighted by four individual champs.
Upstart Land O’ Lakes, with its 10 regional qualifiers, upset Citrus for third, 115.5-97.0, followed by Hernando (82.0), Central (77.0) and Lecanto (54.0).
Citrus advanced eight grapplers to regionals followed by Hernando’s six. The Purple and Gold was led by a repeat district champion, junior Jesse Gaudin at 220 pounds.
Central, which entered with a meet-low six grapplers, advanced five to regionals led by junior Jesus Nieves at 145.
Of 2A-7’s 56 representatives at regionals, 33 are from Hernando County including 13 district champions from 14 weight classes. The lone exception was Land O’ Lakes senior Gary Garcia at 195.
Ninth-year Shark skipper Mike Lastra couldn’t believe his good fortune with 10 placers including: seniors Sean Nguyen at 106 (second), Shane Reeger at 132 (first), Brandon Vovan at 160 (first), Dylan Savoury at 182 (first) and Anthony Siciliano at 285 (first); and sophomores Mark Espinosa at 120 (third), Joey DeFranco at 126 (second), Jeramie Jazikoff at 138 (second), Kam Faulkenberry at 145 (fourth) and Adrian Rivera at 152 (second)
The Sharks’ 14-member crew finished 18-15 overall with 10 pins.
"It went really well for us today," stated Coach Lastra. "We had 10 guys who had never wrestled at districts before and 10 first-year guys. We only had four district champs before we walked in here. So getting four champs in one day is something. Looking back, it wasn’t a good day, it was a great day."
For the defending Class 2A state champion Springstead Eagles, the day began on the wrong foot.
Springstead hadn’t had one wrestler fail to make weight this year. First-year head coach Sal Basile took no prisoners on the subject.
"Before Robert (Holdway) comes out for wrestling again he’s going have to make a commitment to the sport," Basile said. "To me, not making weight reflects poorly on everyone else on our team. Guys don’t make weight on other teams, not this team.
"Not making weight is a sign of an undisciplined wrestler. I really tried not to make this (not making weight) my day. Because of it, we dug an early hole and our guys knew we had points to makeup."
Springstead was already in a foul mood. The Eagles were two weeks removed from their lackluster Jan. 19 third-place finish at the 27th Ippolito Tournament at Brandon. The Hillsborough County event was the first time in nine meets this season that the Spring Hill grapplers did not have one individual champion.
That all changed Saturday when the Eagles’ responded by capturing 29-of-38 bouts (76 percent), behind a meet-best 21 pins.
Though Springstead’s county record four-year streak of sending 14 grapplers to regionals was snapped, Basile found a silver lining. In the program’s 32nd district meet, the Eagles pushed their career mark of district champions to 171.
"Overall, it was a good day," remarked Basile as his team captured its seventh tournament this winter. "Coming in, our goal was to push all 14 to regionals. We came up a little short.
"I thought we were a little lethargic and talked to guys just before the consolation finals and finals," he recalled. "At this point, it’s all about peaking when you’re supposed to. When you take into account all the matches we looked pretty dominant. Some of our guys wrestled much better against the guys we had lost to before."
Eagles: 12 qualifiers
Springstead will enter St. Cloud with 12 regional qualifiers including: seniors Stephen Pavao at 120, Joe Russo at 152 and Will Allen at 285; juniors Jordan Rivera at 138, Austin Stock at 182, Travis O’Neil at 195 and Corey Humphrey at 220; and sophomores Matt Landgraff at 106, Michael McDonald at 113, Andrew Smith at 126, Billy Swift at 160 and Conor Ross at 170.
Springstead’s seven individual champions included: Landgraff, McDonald, Pavao, Smith, Rivera, Russo and Ross. Pavao and Smith were first-time champs while others all repeated.
Swift (33-14 overall) settled for second place falling to Vovan (37-5) for the third time in three clashes, 7-3.
Humphrey (25-15) lost for the fourth career time to Gaudin from Hernando, 9-4. Gaudin (34-1) has solved Humphrey three times this season.
Allen etched a personal-best 3-1 effort for third place featuring three pins at heavyweight over Citrus freshman Eric Woods (1:22), Lecanto junior Dalton Collins (1:46) and Land O’ Lakes sophomore Josh Gaulden (56 ticks).
Stock (22-17) was denied third place losing to Central junior Brandon Brown (18-14) in consolation finals, 3-2. Stock is 2-2 versus Brown.
O’Neil (11-10) fell to Lecanto junior Jonah Nightengale (17-6) in the consolation finals, 7-3.
Landgraff had waited nearly a year to make amends for getting stuck in 74 seconds by Nguyen in the Region of Doom finals at St. Cloud.
Nguyen arrived red-hot. After a bye, the top-seeded Nguyen (37-2) stretched his school-record winning streak to 28 straight matches by folding Central junior Austin Mestres in the semifinals in 60 seconds.
But in a match Landgraff never trailed, his two-point takedown with 18 seconds left sealed his second straight district title and first "real" win over Nguyen.
Last winter, Landgraff earned a forfeit nod via an injury default over Nguyen during districts at Hernando.
As a result of the upset, Landgraff finished 3-0 on the day to improve to a county-best 43-6.
"This was definitely worth the wait," declared the 15-year-old Landgraff. "Since that match (last year), I knew I had to get bigger. Along the way, I know I’ve gotten better."
On the key to the match, "I was going to stay aggressive no matter what," recalled Landgraff. "And I wasn’t waiting for him. He’s (Nguyen) strong and he knows his stuff."
Like Landgraff, McDonald became one of 29 Eagles to earn two district championships.
The top-seeded McDonald earned his sixth gold medal in his seventh IBT event this winter.
The Eagle captain needed 91 ticks in the finals to complete a 3-0 run over second-seeded Citrus senior Chris Mosher. Mosher was a 2012 state qualifier.
"Winning districts as a freshman was harder," pointed out the 16-year-old McDonald, who climbed to 41-3. "Freshmen aren’t supposed to win district titles, right? Winning back to back feels pretty good. This wasn’t a major goal; it’s more like a steppingstone."
For the first time in four district tournaments, Pavao reached the top of the podium.
The top-seeded Pavao left no doubt with three pins in three matches over Land O’ Lakes junior Caleb Nelson (57 seconds), Lecanto junior Jacob Kortendick (65 ticks) and Central senior Josh Marquez in the finals (74 ticks).
Pavao, who missed the Ippolito Tourney due to illness, improved to a career-best 32-8, featuring 23 pins.
"My first district championship feels pretty god," smiled the 17-year-old Pavao, who climbed to 96-43 lifetime – only four wins shy of becoming the school’s 22nd member of the exclusive 100-win fraternity. "It’s nice, but my goals are much higher. I won’t be satisfied until it’s the top of the podium at states."
Like Pavao, the top-seeded Smith also became a first-time district champ.
More importantly like Pavao, Smith stuffed a trio of opponents including Citrus sophomore Victor Segarra (14 seconds), Land O’ Lakes frosh Miles Gorman (43 ticks) and Nature Coast’s DeFranco in the finals (56 seconds).
"Winning districts tastes pretty good," savored the 15-year-old Smith, who climbed to 34-16. "This (win) sets me up better for regionals. Today’s bracket was much easier than most of the tournaments we’ve been at. I have to dedicate this to my (practice) partner Stephen (Pavao) and Coach Sal (Basile) for pushing me harder in practice."
Rivera rules (again)
Like Pavao, Rivera was ill and missed the Ippolito Tourney.
The two-time state placer returned to the mats with a vengeance.
The top-seeded Rivera earned a first-round bye before folding Lecanto senior Brian Scorria (90 seconds) and flattening Nature Coast's Jazikoff in the finals (64 seconds).
With the win, Rivera became one of 14 Eagles to win three first-place blue ribbons.
Rivera’s triumph marked the fifth time in five finals matches this winter that he returned home in first place.
On his efforts, "Today was pretty easy," declared Rivera, who climbed to 37-4 this winter and tied John Dreggors for 13th place in career wins at Springstead (118). "I didn’t take it lightly; I just focused on handling business."
On Springstead sending 12 guys to regionals, "Unfortunately, we had one guy not make weight and we had one guy go 0-2," said Rivera. "This (the loss of those two wrestlers) will not hold us back. We’re not making excuses; we’re going forward. I’m like all the other guys still wrestling – we’re all thinking eight more matches (for a state championship)."
Like Pavao and Smith, the top-seeded Russo rolled through his weight class behind a trio of pins over Citrus sophomore Devon Carmack (29 ticks), Land O’ Lakes frosh Jesse Seidl (2:38) and Nature Coast’s Rivera in the finals (2:59).
"Winning districts for a second time wasn’t a major goal for me," shrugged the 18-year-old Russo, who improved to a career-best 37-6 featuring 24 pins. "I really didn’t face the toughest competition at districts either year."
After a bye, the top-seeded Ross buried Lecanto junior De’Andre Horton with a pin in 35 seconds before a convincing 12-4 major decision over Citrus junior Casey Bearden.
The defending state runner-up Ross (41-3), who appeared fatigued at Ippolito, looked crisp Saturday in his own backyard.
"I’m feeling great," noted the 15-year-old Ross. "I think we all kind of fed off how Matt (Landgraff) and Andrew (Smith) wrestled in the finals. I didn’t think the bracket was that tough. I went in trying to break my opponents."
Leopards’ Gaudin repeats
Hernando helped turn the page on its 8-24 regular-season campaign behind its fifth-place effort. The Leopards finished 14-14 overall with eight pins.
More importantly, Hernando pushed six into regionals: sophomores Bailey Mosher at 113 (third) and Clint Wilkins at 120 (fourth), juniors Jesse Gaudin at 220 (first) and Brennan Ertl at 152 (third), and seniors Mike Ulloa at 160 (third) and Canaan Swackard at 285 (second).
Gaudin bitterly recalls being eliminated in the final round of regional wrestlebacks in 2012. That loss has been a source of inspiration. He calls next week his chance for redemption.
"I haven’t forgotten that loss. It’s what drives me every day in practice," admitted the 17-year-old Gaudin. "I’ve been running more; just working on building up my stamina. My motto next week is unfinished business."
The top-seeded Swackard was expected to join Gaudin in the winner’s circle after pinning Siciliano of Nature Coast twice during the regular season.
Second-seeded Siciliano turned the tables on Swackard with a huge upset in the finals which had the Nature Coast fans howling in delight behind a pin in 2:13.
Central’s tiny squad captured 11-of-18 bouts with seven pins.
The Bears will be represented at regionals by five grapplers: seniors Marquez and Taylor Cromwell at 220 (third), and juniors Mestres, Nieves and Brown.
In the finals, the second-seeded Nieves rallied past top-seeded Jacob Nolen of Citrus, 5-3.
"Winning districts is special," beamed the 16-year-old Nieves, who’ll enter regionals with a team-best 27-10 slate, featuring 11 pins. "This (winning districts) is something my brother (2012 state qualifier Puerto Rico Nieves) never did.
"I’m going to try to do the same thing next week," added Nieves on his regional forecast. "I’m going to wrestle my hardest. Going to states – that’s my goal."
Final 2A-7 Wrestling Tournament Team Standings:
PL SCHOOL PTS.
1. Spring Hill-Springstead (SPG) 222.0
2. Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical (NCT) 165.5
3. Land O' Lakes (LOL) 115.5
4. Inverness-Citrus (CIT) 97.0
5. Brooksville-Hernando (HER) 82.0
6. Brooksville-Central (CEN) 77.0
7. Lecanto (LEC) 54.0
2013 Class 2A, Region II Qualifiers NO.
1. Spring Hill-Springstead (SPG) 12
2. Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical (NCT) 10
2. Land O' Lakes (LOL) 10
4. Inverness-Citrus (CIT) 8
5. Brooksville-Hernando (HER) 6
6. Brooksville-Central (CEN) 5
6. Lecanto (LEC) 5
106 – Matt Landgraff (SPG) dec. Sean Nguyen (NCT), 9-7.
113 – Michael McDonald (SPG) pin Chris Mosher (CIT), 1:31.
120 – Stephen Pavao (SPG) pin Josh Marquez (CEN), 1:14.
126 – Andrew Smith (SPG) pin Joey DeFranco (NCT), 0:56.
132 – Shane Reeger (NCT) major dec. Carlos Osorno (LOL), 8-0.
138 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) pin Jeramie Jazikoff (NCT), 1:04.
145 – Jesus Nieves (CEN) dec. Jacob Nolen (CIT), 5-3 (OT).
152 – Joe Russo (SPG) pin Adrian Rivera (NCT), 2:59.
160 – Brandon Vovan (NCT) dec. Billy Swift (SPG), 7-3.
170 – Conor Ross (SPG) major dec. Casey Bearden (CIT), 12-4.
182 – Dylan Savoury (NCT) dec. Brandon Taylor (CIT), 14-13.
195 – Gary Garcia (LOL) dec. Nick Fernandez (CIT), 6-3.
220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) dec. Corey Humphrey (SPG), 9-4.
285 – Anthony Siciliano (NCT) pin Canaan Swackard (HER), 2:13.
106 – Dominick Telesco (LOL) pin Austin Mestres (CEN), 3:53.
113 – Bailey Mosher (HER) dec. Mike Milillo (LOL), 3-0.
120 – Mark Espinosa (NCT) pin Clint Wilkins (HER), 3:04.
126 – Miles Gorman (LOL) dec. Jon Fillinger (LEC), 6-0.
132 – Joel Pelton (LEC) dec. Dalton Tinsley (CIT), 11-6.
138 – Brian Scorria (LEC) pin Tarique Cabanas (CIT), 1:48.
145 – Shawn Leavor (LOL) tech. fall Kam Faulkenberry (NCT), 16-1.
152 – Brennan Ertl (HER) pin Jesse Seidl (LOL), 2:39.
160 – Mike Ulloa (HER) dec. Cedric Lowe (LOL), 5-0.
170 – Bobby Austin (LOL) pin De’Andre Horton (LEC), 0:33.
182 – Brandon Brown (CEN) dec. Austin Stock (SPG), 3-2.
195 – Jonah Nightengale (LEC) dec. Travis O’Neil (SPG), 7-3.
220 – Taylor Cromwell (CEN) pin Bradley Wisenauer (CIT), 0:37.
285 – Will Allen (SPG) pin Josh Gaulden (LOL), 0:56.
2013 Springstead Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Landgraff, Matt 3 0 1 1st
113 McDonald, Michael 3 0 2 1st
120 Pavao, Stephen 3 0 3 1st
126 Smith, Andrew 3 0 3 1st
132 Long, Tyler 0 2 0 -
138 Rivera, Jordan 2 0 2 1st
152 Russo, Joe 3 0 3 1st
160 Swift, Billy 2 1 0 2nd
170 Ross, Conor 2 0 1 1st
182 Stock, Austin 2 2 2 4th
195 O’Neil, Travis 1 2 0 4th
220 Humphrey, Corey 2 1 1 2nd
285 Allen, Will 3 1 3 3rd
TOTALS –13-- 29 9 21 -
2013 NCT Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Nguyen, Sean 1 1 1 2nd
113 O’Reilly, Peter 0 2 0 -
120 Espinosa, Mark 3 1 2 3rd
126 DeFranco, Joey 1 1 1 2nd
132 Reeger, Shane 2 0 1 1st
138 Jazikoff, Jeramie 1 1 0 2nd
145 Faulkenberry, Kam 1 2 1 4th
152 Rivera, Adrian 2 1 1 2nd
160 Vovan, Brandon 2 0 0 1st
170 Gregory, Cody 0 2 0 -
182 Savoury, Dylan 3 0 1 1st
195 Contegiacomo, Anthony 0 2 0 -
220 Ritchie, Frank 0 2 0 -
285 Siciliano, Anthony 2 0 2 1st
TOTALS –14-- 18 15 10 -
2013 Hernando Individual Results
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Fouts, Johnny 0 2 0 -
113 Mosher, Bailey 3 1 1 3rd
120 Wilkins, Clint 2 2 1 4th
126 Ray, Tyler 0 2 0 -
152 Ertl, Brennan 2 1 2 3rd
160 Ulloa, Mike 2 1 0 3rd
170 Haitz, Connor 0 2 0 -
182 Whitaker, Lane 1 2 1 -
220 Gaudin, Jesse 2 0 1 1st
285 Swackard, Canaan 2 1 2 2nd
TOTALS –10-- 14 14 8 -
2013 Central Individual Results:
WGT NAME W L PINS PL
106 Mestres, Austin 2 2 2 4th
120 Marquez, Josh 2 1 1 2nd
145 Nieves, Jesus 2 0 0 1st
152 Keister, Adam 0 2 0 -
182 Brown, Brandon 3 1 2 3rd
220 Cromwell, Taylor 2 1 2 3rd
TOTALS --6-- 11 7 7 -